Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Freewill Baptist/Methodist: J. P. Lunsford

James Pierce “Jim” Lunsford, son of Aris C. Lunsford and Mary M. Ledbetter, was born 1834 in Tennessee, and died November 27, 1918 at Mt. Enterprise, Texas. He was buried in the Old Prospect Cemetery. His unmarked tomb was recently marked with a Confederate marker in a dedication ceremony Saturday, October 18, 2014.[i] Jim married Sarah Ann Walters in 1855 in Chattahoochee County, Georgia. She was the daughter of Ezekiel Walters and Mary Ann Sanders.

James Lunsford was a Confederate Civil War Veteran.[ii] He was also a Free Will Baptist and Methodist Minister. According to genealogist Elaine Maduzia (his great-great granddaughter), Lunsford moved to Alabama shortly after his marriage. They came to Texas in a wagon train and settled in Cherokee County in 1877. She also stated that James P. Lunsford was one of the founding members and minister of the Old Prospect Church. It is known that the Methodists used the old meeting house as well as the Baptists. Some records indicate he was ordained twice – in August of 1875, by Methodist Episcopal Church South at Greenville, Alabama and in 1877 by the First Free Will Church, Cherokee County, Texas.[iii] If this is correct, records in the Texas Free Will Baptist Association may suggest that he left the Free Will Baptists and went back to the Methodist Church – at the least the Texas Association removed him from their body in 1894 regarding doctrinal differences.[iv]

Almedia Lunsford Nelson often told a story of Jim Lunsford being wounded in the Civil War. He received a wound in his forehead and the doctors used a silver dollar to replace the bone loss there. She said one could still see the imprint of the coin years afterward.[v]

Jim and Sarah had ten children. The Lunsfords’ lives continues in the families and churches in southern Rusk County and northern Nacogdoches County, as well as other places to which the family has spread. Charter members of Old Prospect Baptist Church at Sand Flat, Rusk County, Texas, Mallie Marie Matlock Strong and Ralph Matlock – children of J. H. Matlock and Etta Elizabeth Lunsford – were grandchildren of Jim Lunsford. He also has great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren that are or have been members of Old Prospect Baptist Church, as well as other relatives. Jim Lunsford’s descendants who are members of Mount Union Free Will Baptist Church include Mary Wharton, Maxine Gaddy, John Connell, Robert Little, and possibly several others. He has descendants in other churches, of course, but these two are the most closely related to where he and his family lived.

[i] The day also honored Lunsford’s wife Sarah and his brother Isaac Lee Hilliard Lunsford.
[ii] According to his Confederate Pension application (Comptroller's File No. 14264), Lunsford served as a Private in the 1st Alabama Artillery Co D, enlisting Sept. 6, 1862. The Roll of Prisoners at New Orleans, La. (From Book No. 2, Folio No. 232) states he was captured at Fort Gaines, Aug. 8, 1864 and transferred to Ship Island Oct. 25, 1864. It appears that Lunsford was a member of the Golden Drain Masonic Lodge, of which P. M. C. Winder was a member. Winder was son-in-law to Lemuel Herrin.
[iii] Perhaps the meaning is “Free Will Baptist”. It is not clear with which church he was affiliated after 1877, but the assumption has been that he was a Methodist preacher in the Prospect Church. In correspondence Elaine Maduzia revealed that she has lost most of her records due to a computer crash, and that this one online is all that survived – so she could not document the source of this information.
[iv] “We find one minister, brother J. P. Lunsford, out of harmony with our church, advocating usages not in keeping with the teaching of our church. We are reliably informed that he has declared himself independent of our body, pronouncing us heterodox in doctrine and usages. We recommend that the name of this brother, J. P. Lunsford, be dropped from the list of ministers.” From a report on the state of the churches in the Minutes of the Seventeenth Annual Session of the Texas Free Will Baptist Association, October 19-20, 1894 (pages 3-4) Rusk County churches Isabel’s Chapel, Old Prospect, and Sharron have no information in the statistical table (p. 9). Under the circumstances, this implies, but doesn’t prove, that Isabel’s Chapel and Sharron were in J. P. Lunsford’s sphere of influence.

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